Growth Flourishes In Favorable Environments

Growth Flourishes In Favorable Environments

 At some point, a person feels the need to evolve, to enter a new dimension of life. Maybe they want to improve a skill, a behavior, or an action. Perhaps they want to advance in their career, in their relationships with others, or change their mindset or grow their spiritual knowledge. But for growth to happen, the person’s environment must change.

We all know how growth happens in plants. It starts with a seed that must be implanted into fertile soil full of nutrients to form roots. It also needs sunlight, air, and water, which, through the process of photosynthesis, helps the growing seed produce its own food source. In the right conditions, the seed begins to grow into a plant, and that plant grows to its full potential. If one of these elements are absent, the seed my never take root or achieve full growth. If you plant a seed in an environment where one of these elements is absent, growth is inhibited and the seed’s full potential is never realized. The seed remains dormant.

That principle works the same in your life and mine. For growth to happen, your environment must be conducive to growth. It must have the right nutrients to stimulate growth. If you want to change your current situation or circumstances, you must change your present environment. John Maxwell writes that “Growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow is going to get better.” If you don’t have the resources and the know-how, start from where you are.

I realized at an early age that growth only happens in its proper environment. I remembered when I was 12 years old, I was sitting on my mother’s hardwood floor and watching an interview with my favorite television personality, Mr. T. “I was born in the ghetto, but the ghetto was not in me,” he said.

His words changed my life.  They taught me that if circumstances are not what you want, then change them. 

My circumstances at that time were poverty, crime, and a drug-infested neighborhood. I had no role models to look up to. The adults around me had the look of hopelessness and despair. They may have had dreams and ambitions, but when you looked into their eyes, the flames of ambition had gone out. The adults in my neighborhood accepted the destinies that the environment had given them. I refused to accept defeatism, cynicism, discouragement, and hopelessness. I had dreams, hopes, and a desire to succeed. I did not accept the status quo. 

Music was my way out. I had developed a talent for the trumpet, and my mother scraped up enough money for me to take music lessons at a performing arts academy in the city I was living in. Taking music lessons allowed me to escape the impoverished and dangerous neighborhood for a few hours each week. I was taught by excellent music instructors who not only cared about the instrument, but the person. They demonstrated to me to the quality of life I was seeking. They became my role models. Upon graduating from high school, I received a two-year music scholarship to college. That was my ticket out of the ghetto. Later I joined the military and played the trumpet in the Army band for several years.

What happened? I wanted out of my environment, I did not accept my circumstances, and I did not give up on hope, even at a young age. I got the opportunity to be in a different environment that nourished my growth – not only in developing my skill as a musician, but as an individual. I flourished in that environment and that led to my growth journey. I never looked back. 

What does a growth environment look like?   

In order for a seed to grow, it needs the right soil, sunlight, air and water.   

My mentor, John Maxwell, always taught that your environment is helping you, not holding you back. This one statement helped me examine my own workplace environment. John asked us questions that helped us examine our present environment, such as:

  1. Are you in a place where others are ahead of you, or are you the go-to person? Are you the smartest one in the room? Then what and who is pouring into you? You are not getting the necessary nutrients for growth. If you are pouring everything you have into others, who is pouring into you?
  2. Are you challenged on a constant basis?

In the military, on every assignment I went to, something was always wrong. Logistical processes were not in place so customers were not getting their supplies and materials on time, which upset them. Or a morale problem amongst the workers compounded the unhappy-customers problem. Sometimes I complained to my peers that I always got the most challenging assignments. It was then that I recognized another of John’s principles: you must get out of your comfort zone to grow. When I finished the assignment, the logistical processes were far better than the previous ones, the morale within my area of responsibility was very high, and my customers were giving my operation rave reviews.

At first, I didn’t understand why I always got the hard and challenging jobs. Later I realized that the military was giving me a new growth environment with each new assignment. As the saying goes, with each promotion comes more responsibility. I must have made a lasting impact on my senior officers, because they expected my performance to be top level. My performance in my military career lead me to exponential growth, higher compensation, and bonuses. 

If I embraced challenges, you need to also.

Another statement that helped me evaluate my present environment was: Are others growing around you? The answer to this question reveals the state of workplace or organization, or your peers. Are others getting promoted? Are they recognizing their workers’ abilities and strengths? Is this recognition due to workers doing extraordinary in workplace assignments and exceeding performance standards?  

Military organization inspired and motivated me to take on challenging assignments and be not concerned about  getting my hands dirty. Adding value to the organization is important to me.  Complacency is not an option, nor is just earning a paycheck. This motivated me during my journey of growth. The environment had to be nourishing, challenging, and motivating. If your workplace is toxic, or complacency is the norm, find something else that will help you develop and grow.

Even life after the military, I never changed my mindset. This framework is forever embedded in my mind. Always seek the best environment for continual growth. 

In my last job in California, even after working for 10 years within the organization, promotions came very slowly, even though I used the same approach discussed above. Morale there was at an all-time low. Nepotism, jealousy of the bosses’ favorites, and a toxic work environment inhibited growth. Through several turn of events within the organization, a shuffling from the top down gave me the opportunity to accept a temporary developmental assignment 1700 miles away. The assignment was challenging but rewarding. It gave me insights into my field that I never knew existed. In fact, the work was so advanced that my 10 years on the job in California had not prepared for it. It was so advanced that my old notes and files from previous work were too elementary for the assignment. Boy, did I feel outside of my comfort zone. 

However, the staff was supportive, and there were plenty of opportunities for me to get up to speed.  After several months the developmental assignment ended. I wanted to remain at the new workplace, and I made my request known to the higher-ups. After a lot of convincing of senior management, my potential was recognized, along with my work ethic, and an agreement was made to keep me on.  I never looked back.

Just as my military experience had taught me, I took on the hard assignment. This has encouraged and fostered my growth. I’ve had a few failures, but these were not my enemy. Many in the office are more advanced than me, but I am quickly catching up.

Lastly, leaders must create a growth environment within their organization or areas of influence. I came to realize that as my ranking became more senior that I had a responsibility to help others that worked directly for me to grow. I had to create a growth environment. I used the same framework and list that I was taught, I applied it to help others. 

  1. For people to grow you must set the bar high. Provide them with a challenging environment.
  2. Give them challenging work, nothing beneath them. And if they do not know how to do it, train them the right way first, then expect them to maintain the standard.
  3. Cultivate an affirming atmosphere. Nurture and nourish your people for growth.
  4. Model growth in front of them. Lead from the front, not the rear. I always say: “The most valuable gift I can give to other is a good example.” There is nothing more confusing than a person who gives good advice but sets a bad example. To quote (again) John Maxwell: “A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.”


Remember, growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow will get better. If you don’t know whether your present environment is a growth environment, do an assessment.

Are others more advanced than you?

Are your assignments challenging?

Is your environment affirming or toxic?

Are you excited every morning about embracing challenge?

Are others growing around you?

The bottom line is that a growth environment aids in growth. It doesn’t hold you back. Lastly, if you are a leader, you are responsible for helping others grow and creating an atmosphere of growth. Grow leaders, don’t just tell them what to do.


Lead by example: to lead change, leaders must change from within!

Lead by example: to lead change, leaders must change from within!

We’ve all heard the phrase: “Lead by example.” In battle, the troops must see the Army Officer in front of them, leading them boldly towards their objective. The leader exemplifies courage, selfless service, and inspires trust in his followers.

Example-setting is the only way a leader will get his followers to buy into his plan. Albert Schweitzer said: “Example isn’t the main thing in leadership – it is the only thing.”

Most people are visual learners, not verbal learners. Good communication makes the vision clear, and good modeling makes it come alive.

A leader must want his followers to model the desired behavior. How do you do that? How, as a leader, do you get your followers to exhibit the you want to see? The answer is simple: be a leader, not a naysayer. Leaders must lead themselves first.

To do this a leader, a manager, supervisor, team leader – whoever aspires to lead – must have self-awareness. They must know their weaknesses and their capabilities before barking out orders. But building awareness about one’s habits of thought, emotions, hopes, and behavior is a task. Leaders must know what makes them tick, their beliefs, their priorities, their aspirations, values and fears (Boaz and Fox, 2014)

Most leaders want status, but not the responsibility. Are they at that level to get more pay and more status, or to get themselves and others to buy into the organization’s mission, vision and goals?

We have a biblical example of this in Kings II Chapters 22 through 23. King Josiah ruled Judea for 31 years. When he was 18 years old, he was in the midst of a restoration project of the temple of God, where a scroll of the book of the law was found by the high priest and was given to the royal secretary to be read to the King Josiah. When the king heard the words of the law, he immediately tore his robe. In the Old Testament, this was a sign of repentance, remorse, and despair. Josiah was known as a very righteous king, yet through the word of God he repented and became aware of his own sins towards God. Here you see the how the king Josiah (leader) made a change within himself (self-awareness). His internal reform brought about the internal reform of his people, which led to the restoration of God‘s covenant throughout Judea.

How inner awareness affects the leader’s outer change

People do as they see, so the leaders’ actions speak louder than words. As mentioned previously, example isn’t the main thing – it is the only thing. Organizations that want to implement new strategies create new policies and procedures. But the new processes will fall short if the leader does not exemplify the desired change. In their research, Boaz and Fox indicate that new strategies often fall short because of a failure to inspire the “underlying mindsets and capabilities of the people who will execute [them].”

Research indicates that if the leader doesn’t role model change and maintains the status quo, the people on the ground will maintain that same motivation. (Boaz and Fox, 2014). In my Biblical example, the people saw their King change from within. All of his actions illuminated his internal change, and this motivated the people to also change and move toward transformation.

Learning to lead means cultivating awareness of self. You must be aware of your inner thoughts, character and the values that you hold firm to, regardless of the situation. Selfawareness requires you to know what makes you tick – your inner desires, your strengths and weaknesses, the interests you had as a child, and what motivates and inspires you as an adult. But in this day and age, having inner awareness of one’s self is not easy. Many voices out there harbor confusion, deception, fear, but a few voices have vision and purpose. Nevertheless, to lead others, one must lead one’s own self.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ―Aristotle

If you model the behavior you want everyone in your organization to exhibit, then change will happen without resistance. In a research study, seasoned executives with 15 or more years of experience were asked to name the critical leadership competency for successful change efforts. The answers were communication, collaboration and commitment.

In the area of communication, the leaders explained that followers must know the “what” and the “why” of the change and understand how these align with the organization’s values. In the area of collaboration, successful leaders encourage people to work together across boundaries with other teams or departments to achieve a common goal. In the area of commitment, leaders aligned their own beliefs and behaviors to support change.

The successful leaders also had to step out of their comfort zone and not appear to be resistant or inflexible. The successful leaders embraced change by devoting time and effort to it. Those who were resistant to and negative about change were unsuccessful in implementing change in their organizations (Center for Creative Leadership, 2020).
The bottom line is that people model the behavior of their leaders. Followers (employees, team) will do what they see their leader do. General Colin Powell said it best: “You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people in your organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.” Be an example of the change you want to see.

Derrick Darden,

PhD Entrepreneur Apex,

partner Entrepreneur Coach

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Leaders need to lead the way       (A Citizen’s Letter in a Time of Crisis)

Leaders need to lead the way (A Citizen’s Letter in a Time of Crisis)

I have been disappointed for some time from what I’ve read, watched in the media and heard through the chatter amongst peers as this crisis unfolds. I have seen everything from calm to stupid. After work on Wednesday I decided to stop by the grocery store and get a few things for the weekend; such as hand wipes, some Lysol spray and maybe some fruit and other little knickknacks. However, when I arrived at the grocery store and began shopping for my few items I notice to my surprise that the shelves were empty, of meats, of fruits, seafood and the other paper products that I was seeking for.  I overheard a shopper asked one the store personnel about toilet paper, I thought for a minute in a humorous way that was strange. So I decided to go to the aisle to help the shopper out finding toilet paper. I didn’t really need any toilet paper but to my astonishment to was gone. The fully stocked shelves of paper products including toilet paper were gone.   Go figure!!!  No one sensible enough to believe that just a few weeks ago before this surge of panic hit the airwaves people would be fighting over toilet paper and paper products, so reality began unfolding.  Then capture this moment in your imagination that other people with families were walking up and down the food aisles in a daze wondering like me where all the paper products, fruit and meats disappear to.  I could see the look in the people eyes and in their expressions of disbelief; I missed out and thought in mind of when the shelves will be stocked again.  The sad part of this experience is that I didn’t need food for the month or for the week. All I needed was a few things. However, looking at some of the families in disbelief of what they were witnessing walking up and down the food isles trying to find that needed food item perhaps dinner for that night; was sad to observe.

I guess people went stir crazy, when they saw that our Government at all levels didn’t have a handle on what was going on, held and back vital information to the people. This caused skepticism, cynicism and uncertainty amongst the general public. This causes psychological negative behaviors that were displayed such as fear, panic and stress.   Those who took matters into their own hands panic and began buying in large quantities of essential items.   Therefore, negative display of behaviors manifests themselves by shoppers raiding the supermarket stores shelves during the worst time in this world’s history.  These were very selfish acts committed against our fellow men.    

Another way of looking at the committed selfishness is the disruption on the supply chain just out of fear.  Disruption in an already fragile supply chain, according to Steve Culp of Forbes magazine can reduce the share pricing as much as 7% of affected companies, and cause slowdowns in the market place in response to the disruption. This previous run on the supermarkets sent a jolt in the supply chain which was behavior driven.  This false negative can cause bottlenecks within those effected companies.

From an economic scale the disruptive behavior disturbed an already complex and fragile supply chain.  This behavior sent false negatives in the market place and distorted the prices of the commodity the law of supply and demand was not implemented.  We live in free market system, the law of supply and demand says that when the price of a commodity will net demand goes up in the supply of that commodity is down in the price is higher. On the flipside when the demand for those commodities is down in the price or supply that entire commodity is up in the price is lower. The distortion comes in when the price of a commodity doesn’t follow the law of supply and demand.

While people made a run on the supermarkets just hoard it for them instead of buying what they need for right now. Instead people had no regard for others such as those families that were in shock and unable to find the flexibility of buying those needed items for that day or the week.  People were out for self, these actions were based out of fear driven behaviors and this selfish acts happen across the nation.  People were literally fighting for these essential commodities.  This is a defining moment not only for leaders in organizations in the community but also leaders in Washington DC. I will save the politics for later but right now we have an elephant in the room and we got to get it out.

So I appeal to leaders at all levels, first must display calmness and control especially at the local levels and restore trust in the public.  Leaders must display behaviors free from agitation, disorientation and anger, instead show strong tranquility free from anxiety and fear.  As John Maxwell would say , “leaders must not lead and moan at the same time.”  When people see that their leaders display behaviors of strength, the people with begin to trust and take on these transmittable  behaviors.  People are influenced by what they see not what they are told. To quote John Maxwell leadership is influence nothing more and nothing less.   

James Allen, said “the more tranquil a man becomes, the greater it is his success, he’s a influence , his powers for good, calmness of mine is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.“

This past few weeks were crazy there were no, this was so wherever totally took everybody by surprise, preparedness wasn’t our strong point and calmness was not present amongst the chaos.  Therefore it triggered the behavior of total selfishness within individuals that did not care for their fellow man.

What happens in the United States was a trust problem which displays negative behavioral problems.  Leaders need to,

  1. Restore the trust of the people. Right now their don’t trust the government to make the right decision and have a handle on this epidemic.
  2. Show people that their leaders are in control of their of the issues surrounding this epidemic and a willingness to share information regardless if it’s good or bad. People want to know about the progress of the virus.
  3. Restore the people’s trust back in the government as leading the way in sharing information, keep them up to date on the  cure and  be upfront and  sensible about the true picture of the looming crisis.  

The solution is to control the chaos by the display of confidence and strength.  The restoration of trust of the public.  A control on issuing the essential items and a willingness to share information at State and Local levels  on how to obtain essential items need to get through this crisis.  This is the bottom-line of Mark Weitzman, paper of “Price distortion and shortage deformation, or what happened to the Soap” written in 1991.

So my story doesn’t end there I’m still waiting for the abundance of supplies to fill the shelves to me that will take another week or so while these control measures are being implemented. Not saying that this will eradicate the shortage problem but at least the shelves won’t be as bare as I saw them a few weeks ago. What are your thoughts and comments on this matter? Am I far off?


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Habits can contribute to your success or misery

Habits can contribute to your success or misery

“Why aren’t people successful in life? I can tell you it’s because of habitual habits that diminish their probability of sustainable success. Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” ―Sean Covey

The dictionary points out that a habit is a routine of behavior; it’s a fixed way of thinking more or less about something. So if I have a habit of running every morning, exercising, and eating healthy meals every day to keep my body and mind healthy and sharp, then those are good habits. On the other hand, if I smoke cigarettes or vape everyday, which causes harm and many diseases to my body and diminishes my health, then smoking is a bad habit.

I have a saying that “it’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not that holds you back.” We have total control over our destiny, yet don’t pursue it. The start of a habit is what you digest in your mind every minute of the day. Those thoughts, dreams, or visions become part of your subconscious that forms these habits. “We become what we think about” day in and day out. Your mind is the sum total of the habits and thoughts that get into your subconscious. Those thoughts are put into actions, and those actions became habits. Sounds simple, yet why aren’t people successful in life?

John Dryden says, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

“If you don’t like the results you see every day, then change it. Your habits will determine your future.” – Jack Canfield

So, if you like where you are going, then stay on the path. If not, then change your direction. I have three suggestions.

  1. Read books that will inspire you, that will motivate you, and that will give you purpose. For example, read the Bible (chapters in Proverbs and/or the book Psalm). Read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and/or The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell. Digest these materials day and night. We must be intentional about pouring into your subconscious the pure, the powerful, and the purposeful. Lastly, listen to successful people and study how they form successful habits.
  • Surround yourself with successful people. There’s a saying, “You are the average of the five people you associate with.” If you hang around highly motivated and successful people, then it will rub off on you. “Remember, your association determines your destination.” – Myles Monroe.


  • If you are unable to change your habits, then join a men’s or women’s group that not only uplift you but will hold you accountable.

Success comes with deliberate actions and behaviors. These actions and behaviors form habits and routines. When we fail, many times it’s easy to lose confidence within ourselves. You must visualize and believe that you can change bad habits into good habits. Remember, success comes with deliberate actions.

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Start the New Year by Believing in Yourself by Adding Value to Yourself

Start the New Year by Believing in Yourself by Adding Value to Yourself


Why can’t people see potential in themselves? Why can’t people believe in themselves? Why don’t people add value to their life on a consistent basis?

The main problem is that people don’t see value in themselves. Therefore, they don’t add value to themselves. People will never go beyond their belief system in themselves. No matter what you may think you are capable of doing, if you don’t invest in your growth, you will not go beyond those limiting beliefs. Another way of looking at this is in the area of self-image. On a scale 1-10, if your self-image is three, you will never raise above two.  

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell explains in “The Law of the Lid in order to be effective in leadership, you must raise above the lid – those limiting beliefs to be effective.” 

With my own story, I should’ve been a negative statistic—a black kid in the ghetto. Born one of ten children in the great city of Newark, N.J., I lived in abject poverty and was raised by a single parent who worked multiple jobs to keep her family afloat. Statistics said I should’ve been in jail, on drugs, or dead, but I’m not because one day I took a hard look at myself in the mirror and asked myself, am I’m worth it?  You’re damn right, I am! That self-talk did me good, and my life changed.  I became the first in my family to graduate college with a Ph.D. and the first to finish a career in the military and retire honorably.  Now, I’m a senior Department of Defense civilian in the areas of logistics, acquisition, and contracting along with my entrepreneurial ventures—speaking coaching, and training. All of this didn’t happen overnight. It happened because I believed in me and in my self-worth. Wayne Dyer says it best, “Self-worth comes from one thing- thinking that you are worthy.”   

I needed to change my direction. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.” I took an assessment of myself and saw a few areas of weakness. I wanted to change my direction and destiny.  Like John Maxwell said, “Tomorrow’s destiny becomes today’s direction.” I did what it took to succeed – increased my learning power by taking classes. I got around the right crowd of people. I fed my mind with pure and powerful thoughts along with reading those books that outline the destiny I wanted.  How did I change my direction?

  1. Change my thinking towards my self-worth. I reprogrammed my thoughts towards pure and powerful thoughts, and I guarded what I read and listened to. One of my favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 23:7, “As a man think in his heart so is he.” In James Allen’s famous book “ As a Man Thinketh, he says, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its uncharted desires- and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.” You are the master of your thoughts. You are the planter of the seeds you have sown in your mind, and you are the harvester of the fruits your mind will reap.
  2. Stop comparing myself to others. This is your journey and no one else. When this became a reality to me, I didn’t have to be like Johnnie, Billy, or anyone else. I had to be myself, which took a lot of weight off of me. “Your life is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Steve Jobs once said.
  3. Go beyond my limiting beliefs. The Bible verse in Romans 8:37 says, “But in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who love us.” God doesn’t see us as defeated. Why should we see ourselves as defeated? Get rid of the negative thoughts and fill your mind with pure and powerful ones.
  4. Add value to others as you are adding value to yourself. If you want to lift your spirits, make a difference in someone else’s life. John Maxwell said, “It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when you’re doing something good for someone else.”
  5. Practice consistently and persistently small disciplines in your life on a daily basis. If your life is overwhelming with health, work, family, or something not mentioned, try tackling those overwhelming circumstances a little at a time daily. How do you get rid of the elephant in the room? A little at a time. Be consistent in your efforts. Be determined, motivated, and focused. Be disciplined.

 If you want to change your life, you must take control of your life and make positive changes. Yes, I was born in the ghetto, but it wasn’t born in me. I changed my thought patterns daily. Now, I am successful in everything I do. You can do this, too.

So, in 2020 take a look in a mirror, see value in yourself, add value to yourself, and then add value to others. I am a true believer that whatever you sow into others you will reap.  If you want value and self-worth to become your reality, invest in someone else’s life the same way.

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